In Conversation with Harding and Read

Written on 4th January 2020

The Decorex 2019 Lounge – Walls: Bancha No.298 in Modern Emulsion and Modern Eggshell; Ceiling and Trim: Pelt No.254 in Full Gloss

All photography by Paul Massey

Alongside kitchen cabinetry from British Standard and furniture from Vinterior, our richly pigmented colours proudly formed the backdrop for the Decorex 2019 Legacy Lounge. But when it came to bringing it all together, the task fell into the capable hands of Harding and Read, the London design studio with a reputation for creating characterful, colourful and refined spaces.

As one half of Harding and Read, Nicola Harding masterminded the rich colour combinations and unexpected finishes that brought the Decorex lounge to life. We sat down with her to talk favourite colours new and old, the joy of gloss, and some top decorating tips.

Your Decorex VIP lounge design is a great example of how beautiful spaces can be created with sustainability at the forefront – how did you go about striking that balance, and how important is it to your regular practice?

It’s something we’ve been thinking about quite a lot. In the past, sustainable design has been a separate genre and a bit of an acquired taste. We were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to radically overhaul our way of doing things in order to achieve our sustainable aspirations – we could tick all those boxes and still get the aesthetic that’s so close to our hearts.

For us, we’ve always enjoyed working with antiques, which allows you to extend the life of a product. Buying new stuff fuels your carbon footprint and waste is the number one enemy of sustainability, so if you can get out of that cycle, great.

Decorex Lounge by Harding and Read
Decorex lounge by Harding and Read

The Decorex 2019 Lounge – (Left) Walls: Bancha No.298 in Modern Emulsion and Modern Eggshell; Trim: Paean Black No.294 in Full Gloss; Sideboard: Ultra Marine Blue No.W29 in Modern Eggshell; (Right) Cabinetry: Scotch Blue No.W24 in Modern Eggshell; Stools: Harissa in Modern Eggshell

For the lounge, you chose Scotch Blue and Ultra Marine Blue from our Colour by Nature palette (great choices!) – do you have any other favourite combinations from the new collection?

The blues looked amazing against Bancha, so I think I’d combine Ultra Marine Blue or Scotch Blue with any of the new greens. Ultra Marine Blue, Duck Green and Sap Green would be a lovely combination.

I just love the breadth of the different Farrow & Ball palettes. Tanner’s Brown is one of my favourite colours and I think Ultra Marine Blue would look amazing with that, or perhaps Broccoli Brown with Light Blue. I love mixing all the collections up and bringing in the archive colours – we used Harissa on the stools in the kitchen at Decorex, and the archived Claydon Blue is one of my favourite colours.

You also went for a very striking Full Gloss ceiling in our rich purple shade, Pelt – what other tips do you have for using paint finishes in unexpected ways?

I think a really fun thing to do with paint, and really good value, is to paint a headboard behind a bed, creating an oversized panel which might be two thirds the height of the room and quite a lot wider than the bed, so it could be big enough to include the bedside tables. Doing that in an eggshell or gloss, particularly in a darker colour, you quickly create a dramatic effect that’s easy to paint over when you move, very useful if you’re in a rental.

A fun thing to do in children’s rooms is to paint a ribbon all the way around the room, about three quarters of the way up the wall, in Full Gloss. It creates a really striking effect and it’s so easy. Arsenic would be a lovely colour to do this in, maybe against Pink Ground or Setting Plaster. You could also try a combination of Pale Powder and Arsenic with a bright yellow.

We love your philosophy of creating spaces that ‘truly reflect and perfectly fit the people who use them’ – do you have any advice for someone who’s keen to add touches of their personality to their space, but isn’t sure where to start?

I think it’s a case of asking questions of yourself, being curious about how you truly live and what lights you up. What do you really long to come home to in the evenings? It’s easy to find yourself owning a house and thinking much more about what’s right for that house than what’s right for you, or listening to other people’s opinions over your own.

Also, be honest about where you really spend your time at home. If in real life you spend more time doing the laundry than you do formally entertaining, then do yourself a favour and give as much thought to where you do the laundry as you would to your living room or dining room. That could be as easy as choosing a colour that makes you happy – painting your laundry cupboard Stone Blue could make you smile every time you open the door!

If you have a space that you tend to go in and out of rather than spending lots of time in there trying to relax, you can use a colour that has a higher energy level, something with more of a pop than you might use in your living room.

Finally, don’t forget about painting furniture. Even if you keep everything else in the room quite traditional, painting something like your chairs in a brighter colour can really inject life and energy and make the whole scheme feel much more contemporary.

Pink ground bathroom by Harding & Read
Pink Ground bathroom by Harding & Read

An upstairs bathroom in Nicola’s most memorable property – Walls: Pink Ground No.202 in Modern Emulsion; Sink: Setting Plaster No.231 in Estate Eggshell; Panelling and Trim: Hague Blue No.30 in Estate Eggshell; Floor: Strong White No.2001 in Modern Eggshell

Can you tell us about a project you’re working on right now?

Sure! We’ve just been briefed to do a Georgian townhouse in Marylebone, which I’m very excited about. Our interpretation is 1970s Laura Ashley meets the Bloomsbury Set, so we’re having great fun with colours, especially my colour of the moment which is a kind of deep coral.


What has been your most memorable project to date?

Gosh, what a difficult question – you know, that’s a bit like asking me to choose between my children! One thing I will say is that one of the most fun parts of every project is choosing the colours, trying on different combinations and how they make you feel, so for that reason I particularly loved our Bath project.

It was an incredible property on the side of the hill, overlooking the city. Some of the rooms were drenched with light and some had very little light; some had very high ceilings and some didn’t, so it was a great project in terms of trying different colours with different light levels, creating different atmospheres in different parts of the house.

In the high-ceilinged rooms we used Shaded White – which felt like a bright white in that space – and Setting Plaster, which had a light, airy feel. In the back of the house, we used really rich shades: Claydon Blue, Railings, and one space which paired a Stone Blue ceiling with Tanner’s Brown walls.

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